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Hearts of Our People: Native Voices

This exhibition is a tribute to all Native women artists, families, and nations throughout all time and space. It is their minds, hearts, and hands that have birthed their worlds, and this exhibition, into being.“Hearts of Our People” began with a question: Why do Native women make art? We chose to respond within three core themes: Legacy, Relationships, and Power.

Legacy examines the ways in which Native women artists acknowledge their lineage, making works that simultaneously embody the experience of previous generations, address the present moment, and speak to the future.

Relationships explores the concept that bonds exist beyond the human world to include animals, the “natural” world, the earth, and other entities the Western world does not often recognize as having volition and agency.

Power encompasses works created for diplomacy and influence, to empower others, and for the empowerment of oneself. You will see similarities across cultures and communities, but you will also see many differences. Native Americans are not one monolithic group, and each tribe, nation, or community has its own unique culture, history, and present. Perhaps most important, each Native artist, like artists the world over, brings her own life experience, skill, and individual style to her art.

Artist Roundtable Video

Native American Women Artists Exhibition Roundtable

On November 12-13, 2015, Mia hosted a roundtable for Native women artists and scholars to meet and plan the first comprehensive exhibition exclusively devoted to Native women artists from prehistory to the present, in all media, and from the entire United States and parts of Canada.

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Exhibition Theme Videos


Legacy provides for the transmission of knowledge and skills from one generation to the next and is intrinsic to the artistic process of Native women.

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In Native worldviews, the ability to create life holds sacred power; women, therefore, are considered inherently powerful. The power held by Native women among their own people is spiritual, social, and political. It is contained in knowledge that is both shared and withheld. Native women artists, through their creations born of self-expression, hold power within and outside their nations.

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The theme of relationships aligns with the Indigenous concept of connectivity and reciprocity. Everything in the world—people, animals, plants, places, and living and nonliving elements—is interconnected. Vast webs connect Native people, the physical and metaphysical worlds, and time and space.

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Artist Profile Videos

Rose Simpson's Maria

Rose Simpson, an artist and car mechanic, restored her car, Maria, herself. In the American Southwest, lowriding is a mostly male pastime, associated with seeking out women.

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Cara Romero

“There’s a way to do figurative art and to empower ourselves . . . I think it’s a . . . powerful shift for a woman to be behind the camera.”

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Dyani White Hawk

Dyani White Hawk combines her love of Native abstraction, like that found in painted rawhide containers and objects decorated with porcupine quills, with her admiration of non-Native abstract art to create paintings that broaden the perception of Native art.

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Symposium: Hearts of Our People Video Series

The Legacy, Relationships & Power of Native Women Artists

Panels of artists and scholars explore themes related to the special exhibition “Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists.”

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Cat. no. 36. Rose B. Simpson. Santa Clara Pueblo, born 1983. Maria, 2014. 1985 Chevy El Camino. 56 x 74 x 117 in. Courtesy of the artist. © Kate Russell.